On Top of the Maritimes: Our Mount Carleton Trek

Mount Carleton, located in the north of New Brunswick, is the highest peak in the Maritimes, at 820m (2,690ft).  The mountain is located within the Mount Carleton Provincial Park, where there are 4 peaks and more than 42,000 acres of wilderness to explore.  Mount Carleton is the highest peak, followed by Mount Head at 792m, Mount Sagamook at 777m and Mount Bailey at 564m.

On Saturday, Joel and I got up with the sun and headed for Mount Carleton, an almost 5 hour drive from our home in Saint John.

We arrived at the park just after noon.  We would have loved to be able to hike some of the other peaks but we only had a few hours and we definitely wanted to bag the highest peak in the Maritimes so we headed straight for the Mount Carleton trail.

The trail is a roughly 10km loop.  Park staff suggest doing the hike in a clockwise fashion, up the left side of the trail and back down the shorter, right side of the trail.

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The trail is considered moderately difficult, but we found that it was a steady uphill climb until you get to the last kilometer or so, where you can split one of two ways: one a more gentle roundabout climb and another that takes you right along the cliff edge, with a lot more boulders to climb over.  We took the more exposed side as we wanted the better views.

The trail up the mountain is a pretty one, following a babbling brook for part of the way. Headwaters campground is on this side as well, if you’re looking to camp overnight.  Once you hit the fork in the trail marking the last kilometer, you very quickly begin to climb out of the tree line, revealing some amazing views of northern New Brunswick.  It truly is spectacular.

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It is said that on a clear day, you can see more than 10 million trees from the top of Mount Carleton.  Standing at the summit on Saturday, I definitely felt like I could see that many trees.

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You are truly in the wilderness, unplugged from the grind of life, and connected to your immediate surroundings.  This is what I love about hiking.  It gives you a goal to achieve, it’s a great workout, and it allows you a chance to connect with yourself and the quiet solitude of nature.  Joel remarked afterward that there were a few moments of the trail of absolute silence, and how peaceful he found it.

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There are so few moments of silence in our everyday lives.  So much information coming at us at once, from all angles.  We must make time to unplug from our lives, and to make time for silence.


After we were finished hiking, we headed back to the pretty town of Perth-Andover and The Castle Inn.  The Inn was first built in 1932 as the private residence of Bill and Pauline Lewis.  The structure has a Norman Chateau facade and features many local river rocks collected by the couple themselves.

Castle Inn (2)

 

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The building suffered a fire in the 1940’s and when the structure was rebuilt, the tower was added, along with a stunning, spiral staircase.

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After his parents passed away, Lance Lewis planned to turn the home into a Bed and Breakfast but died unexpectedly and was not able to achieve his goal.  The building is now owned by Peter Dunlop, who began building on to the existing structure in 2004 and turned it into the charming Inn we stayed at on Saturday night.

The food was great, the service warm and the rooms were lovely and well appointed.  There is a great spa area with pool, hot tub, gym and saunas.  It was fun to wander around the Inn and examine the beautiful woodwork and rounded doorways original to the house.

We had fun hanging out with the castle cat, Smoky, who comes and goes as he pleases and can often be found curled up on a comfy seat near the front desk.

It was great to cross something off my 2016 goal list this past weekend and to discover some new places in my own province.  Now, on to the next adventure!

A Little Bit of Summer in April: A Day on the Nerepis River

This past week we got a little taste of summer in April, and it was glorious.  After trudging through a cold and grey couple of weeks, we welcomed some unseasonably warm temperatures with childlike abandon: people played hooky from work, the shorts and flip flops were quickly dug out from deep within closets and patios sprang up overnight in the city.

One of the things I love about living in Canada is that we appreciate nice weather.  I mean, we really appreciate it.  Because you just never know when you’re going to get another +22 degree, cloudless day.  It could be weeks, even months from now.  So, you’ve got to get outside and enjoy it while you can.

That’s what we did on Thursday.  We called a couple friends and loaded a couple canoes on the trailer and headed for the hills – of Welsford, New Brunswick – and the Nerepis River.

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Checking out the water level at Blagdon first, the lowest point in the river.  Looks good!

The Nerepis meanders along gently, with topography that ranges from sandy banks to grassy meadows and a golf course, to tree lined cliffs.  There is plenty of wildlife: we saw several eagles (one huge mother!), lots of geese and other birds, and a turtle sunning itself on an old tree stump.

All set to go!  Just waiting on our companions to launch their canoe.
Gorgeous day for a paddle.

 

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Lots of pretty S-curves and clear blue skies.

There were quite a few trees across the river and unfortunately my paddling skills were pretty rusty and one of the ‘sweepers’ – what paddlers call overhanging obstacles such as tree limbs and branches – took us out pretty early on and Joel and I ended up soaked from the waist down.

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Peter and Chris approaching the ‘sweeper’ that took I us out.  They did fine.
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We did not fair so well.  Joel managed to keep his cigar lit, though!

Luckily it was already close to 20 degrees by that time and we were able to dry off in the sun fairly quickly.  My feet, however, were wet for the rest of the day.

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Lunch time at the beach.  Time to dry off!
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Hills in the distance.
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Turtle tracks in the sand.

It was a great day.  I love the smell of summer on the skin.  It’s a mixture of sunscreen, sweat and fresh air.  It makes all of the bitterly cold days of winter worth it.

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A very pretty river.
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We saw a lot of eagles in this section.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture them.

They say the weather has shifted and that temperatures will be cooler for the next while, but that’s ok.  We know that summer is on the way.  For now we can be thankful for this little taste of summer in April.

Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: Black Beach, NB

Have you ever stumbled upon something in or around your community that you never knew was there and didn’t expect to find?

I never expected to find a black sand beach in the Maritimes.  I’ve never seen a black sand beach, except in photos.  So, a short time ago when I saw a picture posted on Instagram of Black Beach in Lorneville, just a few kilometers from my home, I knew I had to check it out for myself.

Black sand beaches are rare in this part of the world.  They are most commonly found in areas of volcanic activity, such as Iceland, Hawaii and the South Pacific.

Black Beach is located in the community of Lorneville, NB, about 19 km from Saint John. The colour of the sand is derived from graphite deposits.  The beach is located along the Musquash Estuary, one of the most biologically productive areas in Atlantic Canada. Over 4,000 acres of the estuary is protected by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

Known for its biodiversity, the Musquash Estuary is home to numerous species of birds, fish and terrestrial wildlife.  It is the last fully functioning estuary in the Bay of Fundy.

Two hiking trails are located in the area, maintained by the NCC: Black Beach trail and Five Fathom Hole trail.  Joel and I hiked the 4.2 km loop of Black Beach trail a couple Saturday’s ago.  It’s a lovely hike through the forest with great views of the estuary.  We didn’t get to see a lot of wildlife, but it was quite windy when we were there, so we’d like to come back in the summer when the weather improves and we have more time to spend nature-watching.  I love the thick moss carpet that lines much of the trail. It provides a splash of colour, even in this brown period between winter and spring.

It was cold on the beach so we weren’t able to stay long but this area is so unique and special, for its black sand as well as its ecological importance.  I encourage you to explore the area and discover the beauty you might not have even known was there. Just make sure to leave the area just as you left it.

Here are some photos of our hike:

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Black Beach in Lorneville, NB.
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Looking across Musquash Harbour on a grey day.
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Checking out Black Beach from the top of the hill.
Much of the bottom side of the trail loop has views of the Musquash Estuary, protected by the National Conservancy of Canada.


Tree trunks and moss for miles.  This is my kind of place.


At the end of the trail loop is a great lookout over the estuary.

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Getting a closer look at that surprising black sand.
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Mine are the first footprints of the day at Black Beach.

If you’d like more information about Black Beach and/or the Musquash Estuary, please visit www.natureconversancy.ca.

Do you know of a surprising find in the Maritimes?  I’d love to hear about it?

 

A Winter’s Trip to Ministers Island, NB

I don’t know of many islands in the world that you get to by driving over the ocean floor at low tide, but Ministers Island is one of them.  Located in the Bay of Fundy, just off the coast of uber-charming St. Andrews by-the-Sea, a trip to Ministers Island is like stepping back in time.  The island is home to the property of Sir William Van Horne, famous for his role in building the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Van Horne bought part of the island (named Ministers Island because one of the first settlers was Reverand Samuel Andrews) in 1890.  On the property he built a magnificent 50-room summer home named Covenhoven and several other outbuildings, including a windmill, ice house and creamery and a stunning bathhouse built against the cliff-side that offers panoramic views of the Bay of Fundy.

I was really enchanted by our short visit a few weeks ago.  Even though the buildings are closed up for the winter months, you still get a real sense of history as you stroll through the grounds and their beautifully built structures.  You could spend hours here exploring the island and it’s many trails.  Just make sure you make it back over the bar before the tide comes up!

The barn recently sustained significant damage to its silos and requires extensive repairs. For information about how you can help with the restoration efforts, follow their Facebook page Ministers Island or visit their website here.

Here are some pictures I took from our trip to the island.  I would highly recommend planning a trip of your own.  It would be really lovely in the summer!

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Waiting for the tide to reveal our road to Ministers Island.  You can see the barn poking through the trees on the far right.
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Heading across the bar to the island
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The first structure you come to on the island is the house of Reverend Samuel Andrews, built in 1790 and the reason for the island’s name.
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The barn and creamery.  The damage to the silos is clearly visible.
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One of the trails on the island, that leads through a hedge of eastern white cedar and feels like walking through a Robert Frost poem.
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The windmill and back of the main house, Covenhoven.
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The pretty front door of Covenhoven.  The house was intended to serve as a summer cottage when construction began in 1891 but underwent many renovations and now stands at 50 rooms.
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Front view of Covenhoven.
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Beauty view from the front porch of the main house.
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Stunning bathhouse, completed in 1912, that inspired many of Van Horne’s paintings.
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Garage built in 1917 for Van Horne’s Model T Ford and other vehicles.  Upstairs is the chauffeur’s apartment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Winters: A Photo Comparison

I don’t know about y’all, but looking at the bare grass on my front lawn and thinking about what it looked like this time last year is sort of freaking me out.  Because this week we’ve had a couple days where we broke records for February daytime high temperatures and last year at this time it felt like we were in some sort of frozen, never-ending hell of snowmageddon.  I guess it just goes to show you how very different winter in the Maritimes can be from year to year.

As un-Canadian as it may be to say this, winter is not my favourite season (shocking, I know).  I find the short days and the long hours of darkness challenging.  Always having to wear snow boots and tracking snow and ice through the house (and then stepping in puddles of cold water in your sock feet, ahh!).  Shuffling like an old lady across the parking lot so you don’t fall and break a hip (don’t laugh, it happened to people last year!). I try to make the most of it and I do enjoy an afternoon’s snowshoe or a morning of skiing, but for me, winter gets old pretty fast.

This winter, we’ve gotten off pretty lucky so far, at least here in the Saint John area. Mother Nature makes no promises however, and we could get slammed everyday from now until April (and maybe even after that).  In fact, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. For now, I’ll take more of what we’ve been getting.  Thanks, El Nino!

I put together a few comparison shots, so that we can all take a little stroll down memory lane of the winter-from-hell and thank our lucky stars that it’s 2016 and not 2015.

Top: February 21, 2015 Bottom: February 2, 2016

 

Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

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Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

Top: February 7, 2015 Bottom: February 4, 2016

 

Left: February 28, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

Good luck out there, Winter Warriors!

How do you survive the winter months?

 

Fall Chop Chop Week in Saint John

A foodie’s dream – it’s Chop Chop Week in Uptown, Saint John!  All this week, our fabulous chefs offer up special plates, 2-course lunches and 3-course dinners for a special price.  And the best part is that $1 from every dish sold goes to Lunch Connection, providing hot lunches for kids.  It’s a win-win.  You get to eat great food and the kids get a hot lunch.  And remember that thing I wrote about helping support your city, Saint John?  This is one really simple way to do just that.  You get to show appreciation for our fabulous chefs who take such great care to make wonderful, beautiful food for us, support local businesses and thus the local economy and you get to help feed kids in the area.  So really it’s a win-win-win.

We’re well into Chop Chop week, with only a few more days left to partake.  And by all accounts, it’s been a roaring success.  Joel went to En on Tuesday with some coworkers and told me the place was bumping.  Last night we went to dinner at East Coast Bistro and the place was packed.  We had a fantastic meal and despite how busy it was, the service was great and we didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes for any course. Their kitchen is obviously a well oiled machine.

Since I can’t eat wheat, my choices are somewhat limited but I would still like to make it out for one more Chop Chop meal this weekend and I have found that our Saint John chefs are incredibly accommodating with food allergies and intolerances.  I thank you for that, it means a lot to this gluten free foodie!

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Chop Chop main course, En
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Chop Chop dinner at ECB!
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Black & white salad for me, sweet potato soup for Joel
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Pesto haddock gratin for my main, apple-cranberry-rye stuffed pork tenderloin for Joel
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Butter ice cream with sponge toffee crunch for me, Maritime gingerbread for Joel – so yummy!

So if you haven’t been out for a Chop Chop meal yet, what are you waiting for?!  Get on the horn and make a reservation for this weekend!  Yes, all our restaurants will still be here next week but these special menus and the chance to help local schoolkids won’t be.  Happy eating, SJ!

Saturday Morning Adventures: Bald Mountain Adventure Trail

The morning broke clear and cool, with rain on the way this afternoon.  So up and out the door we hurried to find some adventure and do some leaf chasing.  Our plan was to drive out to Clarendon and hike the Bald Mountain Adventure Trail.

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It was a beautiful drive, as the fall colours were reaching their peak this weekend.

The hike itself is a short 2.2km loop that ranges from easy to difficult.  The lead-in trail from the parking area and the upper part of the loop is easy to moderate.  The lower trail is difficult, with quite a few steep areas and boulders to climb over.  It’s well worth the effort however, as you come to a huge rock face that is apparantly very popular with local rock climbers.  No one there today though, just us.

Abandoned bird’s nest along the trail
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That’s a big rock

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A little farther up the loop you come to another rock face, this one with a large chunk of rock cut out of it and a nice little seat to have a break and check out the view.  This one is aptly called Nature’s Boardroom.

Joel checking out the view from Nature’s Boardroom

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From there it’s just a short hike to the summit where you are rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding area, made especially beautiful with the colourful fall foliage.  The summit is covered with snowy lichen mixed with raspberry-coloured blueberry plants.

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View from the summit

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Lichen and blueberry plants

The hike back down and drive home was equally pretty, with several photo op stops along the way.

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A golden wonderland

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Just as we were getting back in the city, the rain was starting to fall.  I’m so glad we got up early and took advantage of the nice weather while we had it.  As I’m writing this, we’re getting a thunderstorm and there are hail stones covering my back deck.  That’s the thing about weather in the Maritimes, you never know what you’re going to get, from minute-to-minute.  Happy Saturday!

Stepping Up For My City

“Ask not what your city can do for you, but what you can do for your city”.

That, of course, is a paraphrased version of the very famous quote by JFK about patriotic duty. Or, in this case, civic responsibility.

This past week, Mayor Mel Norton published a post on his website (previously in the Telegraph-Journal) entitled Our Spirit of Resiliency, where he outlined where Saint John has been, where we are now and how we’re going to get to where we want to be. He called on the citizens of Saint John to pitch in, stating:

“We need you to ask yourself what you can do to foster this city’s ongoing renaissance.  Look around you: others have obviously asked themselves that question and found inspiring ways to answer it.  If you’ll forgive the pun, the ‘burning’ question now is: Have you?”.

Now, I know there has been some argument about whether Saint John really is a ‘Renaissance City’ and whether we should be using the term to describe our city.  I don’t give a shit about all that.  To me, it’s just semantics.  What truly matters is: how do we make our community better?  How do we improve quality of life for Maritimer’s and make this region a place where people want to live and investors want to do business.  I can tell you this: we don’t make our communities better by sitting on our hands.

I know some of you out there are thinking: “Damn it!  I pay my taxes and I vote, isn’t that enough?  What more do you want from me, woman!”

And I think the answer to the question is no.  No, it is not enough to simply live here, pay your taxes and go about the business of life.  Don’t get me wrong, these things are very important!  But in this economic climate, if we want more for our communities than struggling to keep their metaphorical heads-above-water, we need to do more.

I’m as guilty as the next person.  I could do more, I know that I could.  But it’s finding out how best to use your personal skills to help your community that is the real challenge. There are a multitude of ways to contribute to the health of our Maritime communities: from volunteering with non-profit organizations to supporting local businesses to participating in community clean-up days, just to name a few.

There are some people doing incredible things in Saint John that I draw inspiration from: People like Judith Mackin, Michelle Hooton, James Mullinger, the folks at Acre Architects and Third Space Gallery and more.  These people are using their substantial creative talents to build something special in our city.  I think if you look around your community, you will find similar, civic-minded individuals who love their community and want to see it succeed.  And if you don’t, then why not be that person?  Imagine what we could accomplish if we simply stopped our complaining and just got to work?  We would see a very different Maritimes.

So in the future, I will be on the look-out for ways to contribute to the growth and success of my city.  I hope you will too.  And together we’ll build a better Maritimes.

Anniversary Celebration in Uptown, Saint John

Two years ago tomorrow, my husband and I used Chipman Hill Suites as a home base for our wedding. The historic residence of former Mayor Walter W. White, 71 Sydney St. had everything that we needed to create beautiful photo memories of the day and was a comfortable place for out-of-town guests to stay.

On Saturday night, we ventured back Uptown to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, this time at 1 Chipman Hill.  After having been in several of the Chipman Hill Suites buildings, I can tell you that they are exquisitely beautiful with all of the incredible opulence of their time of construction (1854-1857 for the buildings on Chipman Hill). They boast crown moulding, colourful stained glass windows and ornate wood carvings.

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1 Chipman Hill exterior
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Our gorgeous room at 1 Chipman Hill
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Pretty stained glass windows
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Lobby and staircase at 1 Chipman Hill

The furnishings have all been chosen to complement the style of the homes.  I loved the carved wood armoire in our room and admired the lovely chess set and light fixtures in the common areas.

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Ornate armoire
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Loved this little detail in our room
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Chess anyone?
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Lobby light fixture

Susan Fullerton and her team go above and beyond to ensure their guest’s comfort.  I remember having many email conversations with Susan throughout the wedding process on what we needed and how best Chipman Hill Suites could provide it.  She was so helpful.  I guess this is one reason why they are ranked #1 on TripAdvisor among B&B and Inn’s in Saint John.  They are definitely worth checking out if you are planning a trip to Saint John or if you just want a night away from home.

Even though I had a cold and was feeling a little under the weather, I didn’t want to miss out on having dinner Uptown.  We decided on Italian by Night: it was a romantic night after all, so we felt Italian was called for.  All I can say is WOW.  We had an incredible meal and I was so impressed that the chefs had gluten free options so that I could enjoy every course fully.  And I thought the meal was a great value: we split the bruschetta, each had a main as well as dessert (those GF brownies – chocolate heaven!) and a couple glasses of wine for around $80.  For such a fantastic meal – that’s a bargain.

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Bruschetta. ‘Nugh said.
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GF penne for me and and pizza for Joel
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GF brownies for me and tiramisu for Joel

After dinner, we ended our evening out at Bourbon Quarter, where we had a nightcap of Pollen Angels mead for me and a Hammond River brew for Joel while we enjoyed the music from their weekly open mike night.  Then we strolled back to 1 Chipman Hill, having thoroughly enjoyed our romantic evening Uptown.  Saint Romantic, indeed.

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Some fine NB-made nightcaps

Third Shift: A Night of Art and Magic

I wasn’t planning on writing another post about Saint John this week.  But last night, something pretty special happened and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. What happened was that the folks at Third Space Gallery put on Third Shift, Saint John’s first (and hopefully not last) interactive outdoor art show.

Comprised of 17 exhibits from 29 artists and spread over the Trinity Royal District of Uptown, this event was all kinds of magic.  When my husband and I arrived Uptown around 8pm, the event was in full swing and the streets were pulsing with people and excitement.  The Saint John fog was thick and lent a air of mystery to the whole affair. There was a large crowd enjoying Acre Architects’ re-imagining of public spaces, The Park, which transformed Grannan Lane into a sparkling urban oasis, where only a street had existed before.

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Another favourite of mine was I Love You More With Every Remembering by Amy Ash, which asked participants to write a love letter to a place they had left behind and pin them on strings located around Canterbury Car Park.  The exhibit made excellent use of this property, currently undergoing construction.  Picaroons’ was giving away free samples of their brews, soon to be sold in this very location.  The entire property was aglow in red light and looked spectacular, even in it’s unfinished state.

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Crossing the street, we played with the ingenious Light Graffiti exhibit by Kate MacDonald and checked out Photomatic: Travelling Tintype Studio by Karen Stentaford and Christie Lawrence.  Venturing a little further up the street brought us to another magical exhibit, Field Recording by Jud Crandall, where bubbles were floating across Canterbury as an audio recording from a winter snowstorm earlier this year played.  The effect was dreamlike.

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And there were so many more wonderful exhibits.  I don’t think we even saw them all. The event was an unequivocal success.  It gave the people of Saint John, myself included, a chance to experience art in a totally new, inclusive way.  It caused you fall even more in love with your city while at the same time seeing it in a whole new light. And I guess that’s the point of art, to push our consciousness to expand and develop. And Third Shift certainly succeeded.

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I walked by Grannan Lane today and the grass is gone, but the magical feeling remains. And I think few who were Uptown last night will soon forget the experience.  Thank you to all the organizers, artists, contributors and volunteers who made the event a night of art and magic to remember.